Celtic Legends 5 Manchester United Legends 2: Henrik Larsson rolls back the years for charity
Celtic legend Henrik Larsson turned back the clock at Parkhead to grab a hat-trick for a Hoops legends side in their win over their Manchester United counterparts.
Charity was the real winner though as a huge crowd of 50,000-plus turned up for match arranged as a tribute to former Celtic defender John Kennedy, who had to retire through injury. The proceeds will go to Oxfam’s East Africa charity appeal.
Legends, for the most part, was an acceptably loose term on a night which was a mixture of nostalgia and hero-worship.
Charity’s the winner: Henrik Larsson scored a hat-trick in John Kennedy’s testimonial between Celtic Legends and Manchester United Legends
Celtic legends: Larsson was the star turn alongside current Bhoys boss and former team-mate Neil Lennon
Former Celtic manager Martin O’Neill was in charge of the home squad which had Larsson, Neil Lennon, John Hartson, Chris Sutton, Lubo Moravcik and Alan Thompson, as well various celebrities including actor Gerard Butler and former boxer Steve Collins.
Another former Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, oversaw United, for whom he starred as a midfielder in the 1980s.
Roy Keane, Brian McClair and Dion Dublin – who all had spells at both clubs – were in the Red Devils’ squad along with Dwight Yorke and their own batch of celebrities including comedian Patrick Kielty, television presenter Angus Deayton and their own boxing great in Nigel Benn.
There was a carnival atmosphere inside the stadium as Kennedy led Celtic out but it was Larsson who previously had been given the biggest cheer of the night as his name was read out.
The game itself was almost irrelevant.
A Keane actor: Manchester United legend Roy Keane came up against Hollywood superstar Gerald Butler
All smiles: Former Celtic duo Keane and Dion Dublin enjoyed the occasion
Kennedy, who was generously donating his percentage of the gate to the Appeal, was given a rapturous round of applause when he was replaced by current Hoops assistant manager Johan Mjallby in the 10th minute, by which time Yorke had opened the scoring for the visitors.
Former sprinter Darren Campbell added a second after 18 minutes before Keane fouled Sutton in the United box to allow Larsson, a true Celtic legend, the chance to score from the spot to the roars of the Parkhead support.
Inevitably, the pace of the game dropped and the use of substitutes increased.
Happy Hoops: Celebrities and former players were out in force for the special occasion
Lennon was given a huge cheer when he came on at the start of the second half, before singer Russell Watson came on for United. It was that kind of game.
Larsson – who else? – equalised in the 53rd minute with a curling shot from just inside the box.
It was like old times as Larsson, Moravcik, Thompson and Lennon pressed for the winner and it was the former Sweden international who drive in number three with eight minutes remaining.
Larsson set up Bobby Petta for number four two minutes later and the Dutchman notched a second in the 87th minute to send the fans home happy.
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